For Valentine's Day! Deepening Our Close Relationships! Published in the February, 2020 Reporter newsletter of St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas
February offers a good month to talk about how to deepen our relationships with the ones we love. Whether it’s with our intimate partner, our adult children, our best friend, or someone we would like to know better, it’s often hard to know how to talk about things that matter.
When Dan and I made the decision for me to stop working full-time and stay home while our children were small, we knew it would be a big change in our marriage, but we were not sure what would change or how. Daniel was three, Jacob and was one and Leah was just a twinkle in our eye when I resigned from my call in Kansas City. I had been ordained and serving congregations for eight years and we had already been married for seven.
In order to navigate this big change and talk about the issues as they arose, we decided to seek the help of marriage counselor. After we talked about our life, relationship and family in our first session, the counselor looked at us and said, “Well, you are good work consultants.” It was a kind way of saying that we were lousy at emotional intimacy. Ouch.
He gave us a question to ask each other regularly to remain more emotionally connected and sharing about things the mattered. He talked about how tempting it is at the end of the day to talk with our spouse or friends about the details of our life—what we did at work, who we talked to, where we went for lunch and what we ate. It seems like we are sharing ourselves, but these details really have nothing to do with who we are on the inside, how we feel or think, or what’s happening in and around us.
So here it is, the magic question that has changed our marital conversation and the question we still ask each other 22 years later: “What is the impact of _____ on you?” For example: "What is the impact of that meeting on you and your work? What is the effect of our kid’s behavior (or choices, changes, growing up, getting taller than you, looking for colleges) on you? How is your parent’s visit impacting you? What is the impact of your dad’s illness on how you feel about yourself?"
These kinds of questions help us reflect on our how daily experiences are changing us on the inside, and how those we love are changing and growing as well. Without these conversations, many married couples, best friends, siblings, parents and children arrive at a new stage of life, (like the empty nest or post-college relationships) and no longer know their spouse, child, or best friend like they used to or like they thought they did.
This month we celebrate love—but what we really want to focus on is emotional intimacy if we want that love to last a lifetime. So try asking about the impact of events, changes, meetings, illnesses, and so on, to experience growth in emotional connection with those you love!